By Ryan Ward | @RyanJWard
San Jose got their first taste of Stanley Cup hockey on Monday night, and at times the Sharks looked overwhelmed and a half step slower than the host Penguins. The game was decided late in the 3rd period when defenseman Paul Martin briefly lost sight of the Pens Nick Bonino in front of the San Jose net, leading to the eventual game-winning goal. But while the Sharks weren’t able to achieve the result they were after, there are a lot of positives fans can draw on going into Game 2.
For starters, San Jose withstood an early onslaught of scoring from one of the league’s most electric offenses and were able to bounce back with a pair of goals to tie the score. That tells us the Sharks can take a punch on hockey's biggest stage and get right back up. Coming out for the 2nd period down 2-0 against Sidney Crosby’s Penguins on the road had the ice heavily tilted against the Sharks, and they were somehow able to tilt it right back to tie the game within 20 minutes and go into the final period on even ground.
Second, the Sharks converted on the power play. Granted, they did not get as many opportunities on the man advantage as they would have liked, scoring on 1 of the 2 chances they were given, but they’ve proven that they can have success against a good penalty-killing team in the Penguins. This is again something positive to draw on and should instill confidence in the Sharks offense going into Game 2.
Third, they know that they can play better - a LOT better - and yet they almost stole that game on the road in their first ever Stanley Cup Final. They gave up more shots on Martin Jones than they had in any regulation playoff game this year, and yet he played well, stopping 38 of 41 and giving them a chance to win. They essentially conceded the 1st period to the Penguins, playing a step slower and allowing two early goals, so if they’re able to focus ahead of Game 2 and come out as the aggressor, they shouldn’t have to climb as far uphill to get back in the game as they did Monday night.
Would the Sharks have liked to win Game 1 on the road and have a chance for a 2-0 series lead heading back to the Tank? Of course. But the notion of stealing Games 1 AND 2 on the road in their first ever Stanley Cup Final was a little far-fetched, and the Sharks still have the chance to take home ice advantage away from the Pens on Wednesday and take back momentum going into their homecoming in Game 3. If they skate fast, draw a few more penalties, and tighten up their defense, they should be in great shape to get their first Stanley Cup Final victory.